Jun 20 2016 |
Author: Farley |
This year’s Hunger Action Day began with a flurry of people emptying out of busses and pouring into the big white tent where the day’s festivities would take place. People perused the variety of Clif Bars for an energy boost after their journey to the Capitol from places like Orange County, Fresno, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa. The group from Los Angeles had a bus issue on their overnight trip to Sacramento but still made it in time.
Each year the California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC), an organization of volunteers united in the belief that access to adequate, nutritious, and safe food is a fundamental human right, puts on Hunger Action Day. The event brings together advocates, soup kitchen volunteers, nutritionists, food bank supporters, and others concerned about the millions of Californians experiencing hunger to educate their legislators about hunger and support anti-hunger legislation.
On this sunny day of advocacy, students interning with the Western Center on Law and Poverty passed out yellow folders containing information about CHAC’s legislative priorities including:
- Breakfast After the Bell Program (increases access to a nutritious breakfast for students by maximizing convenience and overcoming barriers to participation)
- Summer EBT funding for households with children (reduces food insecurity in children and improves nutrition)
- Restoring Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (no increase this year)
- Repealing the CalWorks Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule (denies aid to babies born into families on the program)
- Supporting AB 2151- CalWorks: Special dietary needs, improving access to benefits for people who need diet related accommodations
- AB 2099, which would allow the EBT system to deliver water benefits for low income households
Attendees took the packets eagerly, ready to talk with their representatives about the issues they experienced firsthand in their districts.
Shanti Prasad, the Community Mobilization Coordinator with the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) kicked off the day by sharing her experience with hunger while growing up in Fresno. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond spoke of sharing with his daughter about his experience of shame and stigma while receiving government assistance via supplemental nutrition programs that sustained his family, only to realize he was not alone and how important these benefits are for many people.
Between speakers the crowd moved and grooved to the tunes of a volunteer DJ who came with Hunger Action Los Angeles. He turned his beats down after lunch so Senator Holly Mitchell could speak. She told the crowd how glad she was that they were here, but cautioned “This is one day and one day is not enough.” She implored people to continue their engagement all year round, to pick up the phone and call their representatives.
Later in the afternoon people got up to stand as a group in front of the steps of the capital with umbrellas unfurled, despite the lack of rain that day. This was a demonstration of disagreement with the governor putting funds aside so California will have a “rainy day fund” when there are people in emergency situations right now. The crowd chanted “The rainy day is now!” and “ Hey, hey Golden State take a look at your poverty rate!” led by Edlyn Countee and Shanti Prasad of ACCFB and CAFB Advocacy Manager Sarah Palmer DeFrank.
Towards the end of the day, the microphone was opened up so all people could share stories of their struggle with hunger. A homeless man talked about his life and his dad going to Vietnam. While he repeated himself for a while, he broke this pattern to start singing “I went down by the river,” and the whole crowd whooped and hollered for him. The community at Hunger Action Day included people of various ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds.
Among the crowd of orange shirts, no one’s voice was more important than another’s, no one’s struggle more or less significant. The people came from near and far to spend the day in community advocating for the hungry members of our California family. The spirit and joy of the people at Hunger Action Day was an uplifting reminder of why, and to whom, anti-hunger work matters.
Written by Lena King. Lena is the nutrition education coordinator at CAFB working to bring and support CAFB’s Produce Education Program to member food banks and pantries. She was fortunate to attend her first Hunger Action Day this year.
Photos by Janny Castillo